A Non-Celeb’s Commencement Speech to This Year’s Graduating Class
I’m not Bono. Or Ellen DeGeneres. Or the Dali Lama. Chances are pretty good that I’ll never front a cool band, host the Oscars, or lead a nation of Buddhists. Or stand like them in front of a class of soon-to-be college graduates delivering a commencement speech.
(Their speeches were cool so click on the links to hear them.)
But I’ve earned some street cred from decades of life and I think I’ve got some things to share, even sans celebrity status. So if I were standing on a stage delivering my thoughts to this year’s graduating class on graduation day, here’s what I’d say.
My Commencement Speech
Class, you are in this moment standing at the crucible of BEFORE and AFTER. You are on that edge, that exhilarating edge where excitement and fear and the unknown intersect. Breathe.
You stand in a tiny portal in time where you are both safe and limitless and in a space that is more special than you know. This is what grace feels like.
In just a short time you will march out of here with your dreams and diplomas in hand thinking you’re finished with school. Let me assure you, earth school has much more to teach you.
Here are eight lessons, some based on Taoism principles that I want to share with you. These are lessons I’ve learned from master teachers…oh hell, let’s just say I’m still learning. I hope they serve you well.
8 Pieces of Real People Advice For Graduates
1. Look beyond the mirror. Learn about a world bigger than yourself, a world beyond social media and status updates. It exists. Be a student of life…your entire life. Be open to other cultures; open your eyes to what is going on in the world around you.
Work harder to notice life than to have life notice you.
2. Be teachable. You can’t know what you don’t know until you know. Are you with me? Everyone can be your teacher. The clerk at the grocery store. Your co-worker, your new boss. The janitor in your building.
Everyone has lessons to teach us in grace, compassion, strength, integrity. Watch and learn. Not all lessons come from books.
3. Be discerning. Learn to discern your truth…and not what the media, or even your teachers or parents think it is. Don’t let them herd your thinking. Investigate, ask questions, and be open to the possibility that there is a difference between what someone perceives as true…and what is truth.
4. Stay curious. A curious mind is never bored and can be the most creative asset in your arsenal . . .or for that matter, your backpack or briefcase.
Follow your curiosity because it will likely lead you to something more…and something more usually leads to discovery. And discovery leads to adventure . . .and adventure leads to opportunity. Follow that thread, students. Follow that thread.
5. Collaborate. Darwinism will not serve you in this new world order. Cooperation and collaboration are key to survival now and in every aspect of life.
Relationships are central to a balanced life so learn to co-operate, to collaborate in your job, in your partnerships, in your communities.
6. Know that you matter not, and that you matter more than you know. This is a lesson in duality. It is about knowing that life has its own rhythm, up and down, and things happen, life happens, no matter your best intentions.
It’s important to know during times of challenge that sometimes bad things happen and it’s not personal, it’s just life playing out, running its course.
And the other side of that is this: you have the ability to make a difference in someone’s life in any moment. That difference of a few kind words, a coin to a homeless person, will always matter more than you know.
7. Walk away from the spectacles of life. There will be times in your life, in your career, in your own personal circles where dramas of all sorts will entice you.
Don’t be seduced. Protect your spirit, protect your integrity, protect your energy. Because these things—your spirit, your integrity, your energy– are important tools you’ll carry with you through times of goodness and upheaval and through times of abundance and lack.
8. Know your nature. Why be a lion, fierce and ferocious, if you’re really a lamb? Each has its own form of power and strength that can be used to maneuver one through life.
So be true to your nature and use the gifts of your own divine nature to build a lovely, prosperous, meaningful life.
I’m no rock star, comedian, or enlightened Buddha, but these eight teachings have the potential to change the arc of your world, maybe even the trajectory of your life. And I hope they do.
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